My first semester at MSPP is over, and I am officially 1/8 of a doctor in psychology! Despite the waiting game for final grades, things have really settled down and I have managed to relax considerably. The contrast between the intensity of adjusting to the new program and the sudden drop in workload and things-that-need-to-be-done-yesterday is stark. This is the beginning of a much-needed break!
As we wrapped up the last of our classes, my Clinical Seminar had a rather bittersweet closing; our dear Professor, Ken Hopkins, who has been absolutely wonderful this semester, will not be able to continue as our Professor next semester. The Clinical Seminar course is one that every student takes through the first two years (I believe it becomes a Supervision course in the second two years). Usually the class is small – ours with only six students and all of us in the CFAR concentration. This semester we met for an hour and 50 minutes each week and talked about how we were getting along with classes and the material, and if there was anything we wanted to talk about regarding our placements. This sort of format is what I like best in graduate school: small, intimate groups of people we get to know well, and a safe space to bring up any thoughts we are having about what we are learning to do. It is a great way to get helpful tips from our peers and from a clinician who has far more knowledge and experience in this field held in his pinkie finger than I will probably ever have!
I have not, of course, been in other Clinical Seminar classes, but I am glad I got thrown into Ken’s. His manner is contemplative and insightful, with flashes of humor all over. There was a real sense that he cares about the sort of clinician we each want to be, and how we can develop the tools to be thoughtful, empathetic, and overall quality clinicians. As a first year student in this program and in the placements there is often the feeling of needing to get to the juicy bits fast; what’s the problem and how can we help? With Ken, we are always encouraged to slow down and “sit with it.” Hardly ever an easy thing to do, can I say. Sit with a question, sit with a thought, reflect something back and mull it for a bit. And follow the sparks of emotion! Very basic, and very small steps, but it seems like that could be the best way to forging a relationship and discovering just about anything about our clients.
Moving from the very active work of running around with 18 five year olds at once to the slower work of individual cases has certainly been a change for me, so I have found Ken’s advice indispensable.
Aside from being an attentive and warmhearted professor in our Clinical Seminars, Ken makes himself available for individual meetings, always welcoming and always helpful. I enjoy making meaningful connections with my professors, so having Ken as a professor has been a particular joy for me and, I dare say, for all of us. He will surely be missed in our Clinical Seminar next semester, and I only hope that he will be back to join us in the future!
I hope that all beginning students at MSPP get the same care and warmth from their Clinical Seminar leader.